Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. (Zechariah 8:4-5)
I love this vision of God’s kind of city – old and young enjoying the streets of their villages together. It is a city where the streets are fit for the kids and the kids are fit for the streets. There is intentionality about what one generation is passing to the next. Girls will turn into women and boys turn into men and society passes the baton. Only that doesn’t seem to be happening very well in America, especially among men.
My wife and I were on a Sunday drive through Portland on our way to a hike along the river. We got caught up in a parade. We pulled over to the side while it passed. Under the banner “Slutwalk,” about 150 women in various states of undress were shouting, “wherever we are and wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.” Only in Portland! They were coming from the university and walking through the business district. Let’s just say there were some seriously contradictory messages at work. A short time later my wife and I looked it up online and found that the basic message of Slutwalk is that men in our culture dehumanize women. As written on their web page, I could get behind this, but their method of expression wasn’t winning any converts in my car. In fact, there were oglers following the parade as the participants self-dehumanized. Mixed messages aside, they were expressing their angst over the culture of men in America.
Who is teaching young men to be men? What do they see in the mirror? There seems to be a shortage of strong role models. If you watch the leading men of any of a handful of movies manhood is asserted by winning fights and sleeping with unmarried women. Much of the televised hip-hop scene takes that to a ridiculous next level. Reality shows promote behaviors that are… well… unmanly. Many young men equate success with fame rather than work. The reality? Large numbers of unmarried young men playing video games and watching porn and making little to no provision for the kind of future that is described in God’s city.
Frankly, the church isn’t doing much better. While they have the great counsel of God, they nonetheless perpetuate in their midst the same problems of secular society. The teaching is confusing. According to one popular Christian writer, manhood has to do with ranches, damsels, horses and battles. A popular Christian preacher defines manhood in such bullyish terms that Jesus fails the definition. And while that preacher eschews anything that has to do with being part of urban culture, another preacher leads men full-fledged into his Christian version of urban hipster culture. And we wonder why young men in our culture are confused?
What do men need to know? It is fairly simple…
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
…justice, kindness, and humbleness in the presence of God.
Men of justice don’t dehumanize women. They honor them. The Slutwalk parade would be unnecessary if more men understood what it means to honor women. Being a real man means honoring even less-than-honorable women. They are children of God, whether they realize it or not, and that is justification for great honor. Real men stand up for those who are taken advantage of by a selfish and sinful society. Such men attend to the hard work of making the streets fit for the kids.
Kind men are listeners. Their very presence brings healing. Their deference towards others does not make them feel any less male. They are confident enough in their own skin to accept the full responsibilities of manhood. They are lavish with their expressions of loving kindness, knowing that love is lapped up everywhere it is spilled.
Real men are men of faith. They are aware of the presence of God in their lives and so they walk humbly. They may be called upon to make tremendous sacrifices as they contribute to the needs of another generation. They walk with confidence because they have the assurance of the presence of the Creator of the Universe.
I was in Nepal last year. I was speaking with a man who was an elder in his village. He was talking about the tradition in their culture of arranged marriages. I made a flippant remark regarding the sad young man who ended up with the “umarry-able” woman. His answer stunned me. He said, “All our young women are marry-able. We raise them this way. And the young men know it.”
God’s vision is closer to reality in the impoverished streets of Nepal than in the wealthy success-oriented culture of America. A community that does not pass a baton to its next generation is destined for oblivion. It is time we gave consideration to raising marry-able men and women so that our children are fit for the streets.